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Press Release

Last V-not Gang Member Pleads Guilty To Rico Conspiracy And Admits To Murder Of High School Basketball Star Kihary Blue

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York

RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, Northern District of New York, announces that KAHARI SMITH, age 28, of Syracuse, pled guilty this morning in U.S. District Court in Syracuse to an indictment which charged him and ten others with conspiring to exploit their membership in the V-NOT Gang to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity which included acts of murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, and robbery. SMITH is the last defendant to plead guilty in this eleven defendant case.

At sentencing, SMITH faces up to life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release following any period of incarceration.

The Indictment to which SMITH pled alleges that from at least 2003 through May 2012 members of the V-Not Gang: (1) maintained a specific geographic territory within the City of Syracuse in which only gang members can sell crack cocaine and marijuana; (2) protected that exclusive crack distribution territory with violence; (3) obtained drugs from various suppliers; (4) projected a very violent attitude and responded to violence with violence in order to preserve their stature in the gang community; (5) used graffiti, hand signs, and tributes on their clothing to slain gang members to signify their gang membership; (6) used criteria such as a willingness to use violence, ability to sell drugs, and familial connections to determine membership; and (7) routinely carried and used firearms in connection with their gang activity.

There are multiple acts of violence and drug distribution set forth in the Indictment, including 1 murder, 10 other shootings, 8 other acts of gun possession, and 18 acts of crack distribution and/or possession with intent to distribute crack.

As part of his plea, SMITH admitted to multiple acts that he committed in furtherance of the gang’s activities, the most prominent of which was his intentional killing of Henninger High School basketball star Kihary Blue on November 26, 2010. In that incident, Smith shot and killed Kihary Blue on Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse as part of an ongoing feud between the V-Not and Bricktown gangs. Co-defendant Habakkuk Nickens admitted in court earlier this week that he drove a vehicle into position on the highway so that SMITH could fire the deadly shots into the vehicle in which Blue was a passenger in the middle of the back seat.

Other acts SMITH admitted to included the following: (1) possessing crack cocaine and a starter pistol in the presence of co-defendants Titus Nickens, Dwayne Hester and Donald Johnson, Jr., on October 24, 2007; (2) possessing crack cocaine, marijuana and U.S. currency, along with co-defendants Jermeere McKinnon, Titus Nickens, Jeffrey Powell and others on November 7, 2007; (3) possessing crack cocaine and U.S. currency in the presence of co-defendant Donald Johnson, Jr., on March 23, 2009; (4) present with co-defendants Riadda Travet and Jeffrey Powell when Powell shot a rival gang member in the head on November 1, 2009; (5) participation, along with co-defendants Christopher Mike, Jeffrey Powell, Habakkuk Nickens, Titus Nickens, Kenneth Jackson, Dwayne Hester, and others, in a gang fight against Bricktown Gang members on October 23, 2010; (6) participation in a drive-by shooting of a rival gang member’s house, along with co-defendants Christopher Mike, Jeffrey Powell and Kenneth Jackson; and (7) shooting of Bricktown Gang member Jaycee Floyd on March 19, 2011.

U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian stated: “This plea signifies the end of a very violent chapter in gang activity that plagued the Valley section of Syracuse for the better part of a decade. We are pleased to have brought to justice all these V-Not Gang defendants and to have solved a particularly brutal, tragic and senseless murder of an innocent young athlete named Kihary Blue who, by all accounts, was a fine, upstanding member of our community. Let this serve as yet another example of our relentless pursuit of gang activity in the City of Syracuse.”

This prosecution resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force, which is comprised of agents and detectives from the following agencies: United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (Syracuse Office), the Syracuse Police Department, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department, the New York State Police, and the United States Marshals Service. The Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration - Syracuse office, also assisted in the investigation.

Further questions or inquiries may be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Katko, who is prosecuting the case, at (315) 448-0916.

Updated January 29, 2015